Whilst Scotland and Brazil kicked each other into submission, Yugoslavia were taking control of Group 2 and putting themselves in pole position for a place in the last eight by demolishing Zaire in Gelsenkirchen.
After Scotland had declared at two in their clash, Yugoslavia knew what they needed to do to ensure their World Cup destiny was in their own hands, and helped by a dishevelled African side, who had been on the brink of a strike due to not being paid, they carved their names into the World Cup record books with the biggest win in the history of the competition.
It took the Yugoslav’s just eight minutes to open the scoring, learning from Joe Jordan’s dominance in the air in Scotland’s opening fixture, using Dusan Bajevic as their battering ram. The giant striker headed home powerfully a cross from the left to open the scoring and start the massacre.
Zaire could have levelled matters but as against the Scots wasted a glorious opportunity when Kemba was denied by the onrushing keeper when clean through. It would be a rare moment of joy in a thoroughly miserable evening for the African side.
Dragan Dzajic made it 2-0 on 14 minutes with a beautifully curled free kick over the wall and four minutes later Yugoslavia went past Scotland’s total when Ivica Surjak fired home from the edge of the area after Zaire had lost possession carelessly.
The Yugoslav coach of Zaire, Blagoje Vidinic made the unusual decision to change his goalkeeper at this stage, and it was one that did not work as Kazadi Muamba’s replacement, Tubilandu Ndimbi’s first task was to pick the ball out of his net as Yugoslavia made it 4-0. A free kick from the right saw the Zaire back four once again perform the statue act which allowed Joe Jordan to score for Scotland, Josip Katalinski left completely free to head into the net.
So incensed were the Zaire side that they protested long and hard to referee Omar Delgado of Colombia. Unfortunately Ndaye Mulamba took matters a little too far and was sent off when he appeared to kick the man in black.
4-0 down and reduced to 10 men, Zaire offered little resistance as Yugoslavia went on the rampage. Bajevic netted the fifth with another header before more defensive confusion allowed Vladislav Bogacevic to head over a stranded goalkeeper from 12 yards to make it 6-0 at the break.
Zaire were denied a consolation at the start of the second half when on a rare break they were denied by a blatant handball outside his area by keeper Enver Maric. He wasn’t even booked for a misdemeanour which would be a guaranteed red card in the modern game.
Yugoslavia capitalised on this escape by continuing to push forward and Brank Oblak made it 7-0 when his shot squirmed through the grasp of Ndimbi in the Zaire goal. Ilija Petkovic made it 8-0 with a driven effort from 15 yards out on 65 minutes and then Bajevic completed his hat-trick nine minutes from time to complete the rout and equal Hungary’s 9-0 hammering of South Korea in 1954.
So with their goal difference far superior to that of Scotland, the Yugoslav’s knew that they only needed a point from their last match against Willie Ormond’s side to reach the second phase. Scotland would need a win or pray that Brazil failed to beat Zaire by more than two goals.
After the goal glut of that game, the following evening saw normality prevail in most of the matches, although there was to be another hammering to come for a minnow.
Holland took on Sweden in Dortmund in a tense Group 3 affair which ended goalless. Holland had the majority of the play, Johann Cruyff producing a virtuoso display that had everything but a goal. In fact the match saw the first glimpse of the move that would carve his name into the footballing lexicon as he produced the Cruyff turn.
BBC showed this game live with David Coleman in the commentary box and despite the Dutch dominance they were unable to see off the hard working Swedes. In fact but for a superb save by Jan Joengbloed the Swedes would have pinched the game, the Dutch keeper alive to a clever indirect free kick from the Swedes which saw them chip the ball over the wall for a player to run on to, the shot from 8 yards out tipped away brilliantly for a corner.
In the other game in Group 3 Bulgaria and Uruguay fought out a 1-1 draw, although the South Americans were not their usual brutal selves. Bulgaria took the lead with 15 minutes left, a great run down the right by Voin Voinov ending with a pin point cross onto the head of skipper Hristo Bonev who powered home a diving header from six yards out.
Uruguay grabbed a late equaliser when Ricardo Pavoni’s shot from the angle of the six yard box slipped under the body of the Bulgarian keeper Rumen Goranov and into the net.
In Group 4 there was a real heavyweight clash as Italy met Argentina. ITV broadcast this one live with Hugh Johns in the box. The South Americans were in greater need of the win after their opening defeat to Poland and they took the lead on 19 minutes when Rene Houseman latched onto a ball into the box by Carlos Babbington and powered a bouncing ball past Dino Zoff.
Italy grabbed a fortunate equalizer ten minutes before half time as the Argentines failed to deal with a bouncing ball in their box, Roberto Perfumo somehow turning the ball into his own net. The Italians had the better of the play in the remainder of the game but it was Argentina who came closest to grabbing a winner, Ruben Ayala’s superb shot from the edge of the box spectacularly tipped over the bar by Zoff.
Poland virtually booked their place in the last eight with a hammering of the minnows from Haiti. It took the Poles 17 minutes to get on the score sheet, but five goals in the next 17 minutes was an ample demonstration of their goalscoring prowess.
Grzegorz Lato opened the scoring with his third goal of the competition, capitalizing on a mistake by Fritz Andre to gallop into the area and fire past Henry Francillon in the Haitian goal.
Two corners brought the next two goals as the men from the Caribbean island showed incredible naivite in their defending. Kazimierez Deyna grabbed number two, a deft flick of the head at the near post wrong-footing the keeper, before Andrezj Szarmach powered home the third, arriving behind Jerzy Gorgon to head in from six yards out.
The giant centre back got in on the act himself, rifling home a 30 yard screamer from a free kick rolled into his path and the Poles made it 5-0 before half time when Szarmach was left in acres of space on the left hand side, the striker taking all the time he needed to control and drive the ball home.
Szarmach notched his hat-trick five minutes into the second half with another free header from a corner before Lato wrapped up the scoring three minutes before the end, bundling the ball into an empty net after Szarmach had flicked on a cross, which saw the Haitian players drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
That result meant that if they took anything from the game against Italy they would be through. The Italians just needed to avoid defeat to move onto four points, a figure that Argentina would be unable to match no matter what there result against Haiti. Goal difference would not be the decider in Group 4. Scotland had to beat Yugoslavia to ensure it wouldn’t be needed in Group 2.